tv The Rachel Maddow Show MSNBC September 23, 2014 9:00pm-10:01pm PDT
questions you have about what's going on. they could be very difference between what's the difference between sunni and shia, or how did asaad get to pow i recall. we are going to try to answer those questions as we go forward. that is "all in" for this evening. >> thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. tomahawk missiles have been around since the 1970s. they're about 18 feet long, they're about 20 inches in diameter. on a guided missile cruiser
called the u.s.s. philippine c. >> and it shows the crew in sharp relief as they fire off those missiles. i should also say if you watch these things closely, it also shows these amazing little details. if you see the red arrow there, it turns out while they're shooting these missiles, they're drinking blue gatorade.
you can put your water bottles and your binoculars right against the window while the missiles are going off on the other side of the window. and no, gatorade, you are not allowed to get a sponsorship out of this. in this case, the camera is outside on deck of the ship looking up at the part of the ship from which the missiles are being launched. watch. >> that was released by the navy today. but, wait, there's more. from the same ship, those same
tomahawks, they also shot from two other camera angles. from the first one, you'll see from a little bit further away. and then because of that, you can see the trajectory of the missile when it takes off into the sky. from the second shot, from the second camera angle, you'll see the way the trajectory of that missile as it flies off toward syria how it lights up the entire ship and the shadow of it moves as it passes overhead. watch. >> that was all footage shot by the u.s. navy last night. distributed publicly today. it's all footage from the guided missile destroyer called the u.s.s. arleigh burke.
on the arleigh burke, the sailor shooting the video you can see here is watching the missiles -- watching while the missiles are being fired while the sailor stands on the deck of the ship. and as the sailor follows the trajectory of the missile taking off from the ship, the sailor kind of spins around which creates this really weird perspective. >> again, that is navy footage released from the u.s.s. arleigh burke. they shot multiple camera angles from these missiles being launched in the middle of the night. just watch this one.
the pentagon, also, today, released three very short pieces of video that they say was visible from the air as u.s. pilots bombed other targets inside syria. here are those targeting videos that they released today. the first one that they released shows a building in syria. you see missiles entering the roof of the building, you see the building partially destroyed. another one of these videos, they describe as an isis storage facility near the border of iraq. and then the third video is from that same area on the eastern side of syria near the border with pentagon -- near the border with iraq, excuse me. the pentagon described that strike as happening in a residential area. they say the specific area that they hit with those multiple munitions all landing at the same time. they say it was a vehicle staging ground for the isis militant group.
all of this footage today, this multi-camera angle footage was all released by the u.s. military today. and this is the only verified footage that we have of the air war so far. we know what the fireworks looks like. we have all of this incredible detail to get missiles and bombs in the air headed toward the ground in syria. we know what the military tells us they were shooting at and we know how precise they were at hitting all of their targets. but we do not have any independent dent information as to what the target was or the effect of those strikes. bombs are launched and then bombs land. we know in this war, so far, what it looks like for the bombs to be launched.
we have no idea what it looks like for the bombs to land. the closest that we have in terms of the impact in syria is unverified video, that, i kid you not, was posted to facebook. the reuters news agency cure rated a lot of this stuff today in terms of where people say this footage where people say it was shot and what they say it depicts. honestly, they got it on facebook. and nobody knows exactly what it means or exactly what it shows for sure. but this is the closest thing that we've got in a totally unverified way. the pentagon did a briefing today in which they released all of their own video. the general leading that briefing said that they think the first night of the air war in syria was a real success. his exact quote was, our national indication is that the strikes were very successful. but if you wanted to get an independent, objective
assessment about whether or not things were very successful, there is not a way to get that right now. there isn't a professional, international media presence inside syria right now. and nobody's to blame for that except for terrorists who keep murdering journalists at a rate that has never been seen before in any modern conflict. i don't think there's any reason to blame news agencies for not having correspondents inside syria. they will no longer accept any material submitted by freelance reporters because they cannot, in good conscious take the risk out of insentivizing anybody in an environment that is so deadly, specifically, for journalists.
but that's the fact of that environment in which we are wagering our newest war. the absence of international media, totally, is a fact of this war. that is a really important part of understanding it. and in understanding the limits of what we are allowed to understand about it. columbia journalism review has been publishing journalists lament about what this means about this war and what it means for journalism. there has never been a more important or difficult time. journalists are frequently targeted, abducted, killed. the result is that, the international media has scarce and dwindling assets to the on going civil war and the country that is now the site of the newest air war in the middle east. so, yeah, we've got all of this footage. right? it is an uncomfortable thing to be relying on one single stream of information that is directly from the pentagon as our soul source of data in terms of what is happening. but that's what's going on right now in terms of pictures from the war zone.
we're flooded with these admittedly dazzling fireworks display. an essentially overwhelming presentation of this side of the story. and it's incredibly impressive. but that is all that's going on. and when it comes to figuring out what is going on in this war and what effect the u.s. are likely to have, frankly, we're in a position with what they give us and build out from there in terms of what we can understand about the region and the impact of our actions. and so getting specific, what we are told is that those tomahawk missile actions, we're told that they were mostly not aimed at syria. they were, instead, aimed at another group that we had no advanced warning was part of this war. it was only last week when the director of national intelligence mentioned the group
by name at a conference. he then sent a letter to congress explaining the administration's legal rationale for waging war on this group. they're one of the tomahawk missiles that were launched at eight different khorasan sites west of aleppo in syria. there was also a different round last night. this is the footage that the u.s. navy released today of prowler jets being launched at night off the carrier deck -- off the deck of the u.s.s. george h.w. bush aircraft carrier. this was last night. f-18s and prowlers.
they target those military sites in eastern syria near the iraqi border. it was launched from some as yet undeclared land site in the middle east. and the aircraft launched included f-22s being used for the first time in combat ever. they hit targets in and around rukka. we know of three different sources of attack last night. those two different groups of aircraft from two different sites. we know a little bit about the 22 different sites they say were targeted. the pentagon released maps explaining those targets, showing the press what they were trying to do. the story is not just what
they're trying to do, but what, in fact, they have already done. again, without professional reporting on the ground, it's very hard to comment on what's being said. we're allowed, basically, to extrapolate from what they let us know. this map shows who was thought to be in control of different areas of syria as of roughly two weeks ago. this is the work of the new york times of who was in control where in syria as of the night that president obama made that address to the nation where he said he was considering air
strikes there. don't reveal the next thing here yet. you can see the green dots and the syrian government. the blue dots are other opposition groups. and the purple dots are isis. this gives you a rough guide to who was in control where in syria. now, the next thing on the map. we overlaid on top of that where the air strikes were last night. the relationship between these two different facts is really important, right? if the u.s. military is doing what it says it's doing, and then the effect of that on the ground will be to hurt isis in those areas where they're being targeted. if so, it then becomes really important to know what's going to happen as a consequence of that. who else is operating in that area?
who is going to win by virtue of the fact that we're picking some people to be losers? if isis is effectively taken out by the u.s. in these air strikes, who else is there and will take over in those groups' place? who will fill the vacuum? there is still pretty significant presence in the government right there. attacks on those rebels may very well clear the way for the regime of the syrian government to take more ground there. he's likely to benefit from those strikes taking out the people who are fighting him in the most fierce way. over in the eastern side of the country, well, frankly, there are very few green dots there. there's minimal government presence in or near the places that appear to have been targeted last night. those are areas that have
already been abandoned by the regime. in those areas in the east that we watched taking off in that aircraft carrier, where isis is the sole authority, who's likely to capitalize on u.s. air strikes there if those u.s. air strikes are as effective as the pentagon says they are? nbc's richard engle joins us live in a moment from near the syrian border. stay with us. ♪ who's going to do it? who's going to make it happen? discover a new energy source. turn ocean waves into power. design cars that capture their emissions. build bridges that fix themselves. get more clean water to everyone. who's going to take the leap? who's going to write the code? who's going to do it? engineers. that's who. that's what i want to do. be an engineer. ♪ [ male announcer ] join the scientists
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even bigger one tomorrow. when csx trains move forward, so does the rest of the economy. csx. how tomorrow moves. yesterday afternoon, nbc's richard engle was in my office talking politics. tonight, richard engle is here. you can see on the map he's in a place called orfa in turkey which is right on the syrian border. richard engle, i'm not ask you how you got there between yesterday afternoon and tonight because i think you're magic and i don't want you to ruin it. but can you describe where you are and the relationship to where you are and the air strikes that started last night? >> well, the reason we came here, and there's many places you can go to, is that this area
in the last several days, there have been tens of thousands, up to 150,000 refugees flooding out to 150,000 refugees flooding out of isis-controlled areas and coming into turkey. so it is a place where this conflict is very much alive. it is not far from the home base so it is the best we can do at this stage to assess what's going on inside syria by talking to sources who are still in the country by interviewing the refugees as they are coming in and out and monitoring the social media which is coming out already. and the impression that we've been able to get so far just in pictures. they've hit isis, they've hit
the khorasan group. and it is creating to a sense a bit of solidarity among the radical groups. they feel they are attacked by asaad and now being attacked by the united states. this is going to be very tricky in the days and weeks and i think years going forward. if you were in a part of rebel-controlled syria and suddenly your house blows up or a building next to you blows up, it would be very convenient for those rebels to say it was the americans. and how would they know who it was? maybe it's convenient for forces to say it was the americans. all you know if you're in that village is something fell out of the sky and blew up. there's only two people doing that.
if you're on the receiving end, it certainly looks like those two forces are fighting together. >> strategically, how does that play out then, richard? if the result of the u.s., thus far, is, as you say, solidarity among different, maybe previously fighting among themselves radical rebel groups inside syria. if they are essentially brought together under duress by the u.s. getting involved here, what does that do to the overall situation in the air beyond the threat of the borders in syria and iraq. >> well, on one level, the u.s. strategy is quite simple. and the air strikes are quite simple. there's a militant group operating in an ungoverned space. and go and fight them. and you saw that very clean gun camera footage and footage of the tomahawk missiles and your map with the purple and green dots. but people here don't wear green dots and purple dots on their clothing.
and the actual confusing situation on the ground is far more complicated. and, as the u.s. gets deeper and deeper involved in this, it's going to find it's impossible to distinguish among all of these different groups. and all of the different competing agendas. just look who's on this battlefield right now. you have isis, you have the khorasan group, which most people have never heard of before. you have an anti-asaad group which the u.s. sometimes considers a terrorist group. now you have u.s. air strikes reigning in. and the u.s. is trying to pick just the really bad actors and surmise what their intentions would be and only attack the really bad actors who impose a direct threat to the united states. and i think that is an impossible challenge, frankly, no matter how good our intelligence are and our optics are from drones.
it is a complicated policy. >> richard engle, chief foreign correspondent and the person who i have learned the most about this by a mile. richard, thank you for staying up tonight. thanks. lots more tonight including who is flying alongside the u.s. during these air strikes and why and how long that might be expected to continue. we're also talking strategy with a former nato commander. stay with us. i love this "candy crush" game.
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we were joined in this action by our friends and partners, jordan, bahrain and gitar. america is proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with these nations on behalf of our common security. >> i will think of this in terms of years. >> yes, i will think of this in terms of years. the general expanding on some of the operational details of the air war that president obama launched last night in syria and then he talked about with the press this morning at the white house before he headed to new york for his big speech at the u.n. general assembly. here's the question, when you are attending three days of meetings with 140 other world leaders at the u.n. in new york and you have just launched the war in the middle east, it's obviously crucial that the u.s. is not seen to be going it alone. and, indeed, the five countries that were involved in the
opening salvos of the war last night along the united states, those five countries, that makes up the largest coalition of arab militaries joining in on a u.s.-led military operation since gulf war i in 1991. it's going to be a years-long operation. how long should we expect if this is going to be a really long haul? the saudis have a really, really big air force. we agreed to sell them $30 billion worth of f-strike eagles. they also buy british tornado fighter jets. so the saudis have a huge and expensive and very well-equipped
state-of-the-art air force. there's dozens of american-made f-16s already. they ordered 30 more of them this year. french mirage single engine fighter jets, france has about 70 of those. jordan, they have somewhere around 60 f-16 fighter jets. they used to have more f-16s than that, but get this, earlier this year, jordan decided to sell one of their f-16 squadrons to pakistan. so they used to have 13 more f-16s than they do, but now pakistan has 13 more. jordan's king is personally qualified as a cobra attack helicopter pilot. and, perhaps because of that interest on the part of the king, jordanians fly dozens of the f-18 attack helicopters. bahrain has just over a million people.
they have a dozen or so f-5 fighter jets. over the past two decades, bahrain has also bought 17 american f-16s. qatar is a very tiny country, but in addition to being very, very, very, very rich, they have a central command. they have reportedly about a dozen of those french mirage fighter jets. earlier this year, they made plans to buy 24 u.s. apachee attack helicopters. the u.s. has been actively involved in helping arm them to the teeth. last night, the u.s. dropped the lion's share of the more than 200 bombs and missies that hit more than 20 targets in syria. but if this is going to go on
for years, is it going to be, effectively, the united states alone? joining us now is nbc news national security producer courtney kyubey. >> thanks for having me. >> what we know is operational involvement of these five countries. but do we know exactly what each of those countries did? >> the u.s. military has been somewhat hesitant. but we know a little bit. there were four of the five nations, saudi arabia, uae, jordan and bahrain actually flew and dropped munitions as a part of a third wave of strikes. qatar was more of a defensive role. in case they were targeted by
any kind of syrian air defenses or syrian air force aircraft. qatar would be there and they were able to respond. so all five of the partner nations did fly as part of the third wave of strikes that occurred. during that wave, there were 37 aircraft in the air, including the majority were the u.s. and the rest were the coalition aircraft. so the question is, what's next? you know, are these partner nations, are they going to continue to participate in strikes as they go on over the course of the next days, weeks, months and years? is it going to drop off a little bit? i think that the idea that they would continue at the same rate, the same scope that we saw last night is probably unrealistic. but everyone i spoke to insist that they're in these nations for the long haul. >> this is actually something that pentagon and national
we don't know that for certain, but it makes sense. given the geography, given the fact that they've signed on as part of this coalition, there were others, the third wave also included some aircraft that flew off the u.s.s. george h.w. bush, some of the f-18s. but there were predators, as well. you can kind of look at it as they were all from the sea. and they took out the khorasan target. the second wave was the u.s. air force with a little bit of coalition help. and then the third wave, that was a big one. and then went and took out a ton of isis tar gets. and that included about 18 coalition aircraft and 19 u.s. aircraft that were involved.
as i said, those two predators. >> that is the clearest description that i've heard from anybody today. >> as you said, i'm relying on the pentagon and the u.s. military for all of our information. >> exactly. but there's this thing happens -- it always happens with national security, but it's the distance between what is acknowledged but never said and what is known but never admitted. we're in that gray area right now. stay with us.
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and we promise to keep it that way. driven to preserve the environment, csx moves a ton of freight nearly 450 miles on one gallon of fuel. what a day. can't wait til tomorrow. the u.s. central command is in the middle east and their region is 20 different countries including everything from afghanistan and iran to syria and lots else. the youtube page is great. it's a well-curated thing. it's very popular.
the most popular are usually of air strikes, like this video from last night's strike in syria. today, along with the video strikes in syria and videos of tomahawk missiles being launched, they launched something today that is really hard to get your head around if you're not in the military. it's how are we as humans even capable of that? it's an f-16 fighter jet refuelling in midair. this is a mission that was conducting last night. you can see the weapons stacked on the f-16s wings, shuddering in the air. this is capable of going 1600 miles an hour. and this incredibly powerful fighter jet, in flight with the missiles on it nudges up against another plane, the plane that is shooting that video coverage. it's carrying tens of thousands of gallons of jet fuel. those two airplanes touch while
flying in midair. while touching and flying, they perform this really highly coral choreographed transfer and then the fighter jet edges away from the other plane and flies off covered in live missiles to go do combat. and this routine happens over and over and over again. i know this is not something that we just started doing. this is what it means to be involved in a modern air war. this is what they train to do. but in a civilian world, there is no parallel to that in terms of your daily life at work. as civilians, we will never, ever do anything like that. as a human accomplishment, it is just an incredible thing. and there's a lot to understand what we have just launched in syria.
>> the job that he just left last year, he's currently the dean at tuft's university. admiral, thank you very much for being with us tonight. i really appreciate your time. >> good evening, rachel, it's good to be here. >> as a former supreme ally commander in europe for nato, you have experience of dealing with a big, diverse coalition of nations. what kind of challenge is it to get from maintaining a coalition for diplomatic purposes to obtaining it for operational purposes and getting multiple
disparate countries to act together in a military campaign. >> it's a big challenge. and as the nato commander, i was in charge of a global operation. i had responsibility, strategic oversight in afghanistan. where rachel, as you know, we had the 28 nato nations plus 22 other countries, a total of 50 countries and troops on the ground in afghanistan. the first word out of anyone's mouth ought to be patience. the second one is understanding the different cultural aspects and how different partners are going to bring different things to the table. >> in terms of that political
diad, that political military coupling and the relationship between those two things, one of the things i was just discussing with courtney in the pentagon is sort of diplomatic domestic political need for secrecy around what they're doing. at least some of the nations that was involved in these air strikes last night made no official statement today to their own people publicly about what they did. there is this strange situation in which nobody acknowledges where the air base is that u.s. and coalition planes took off from last night. obviously, that's because it's important to those countries that they keep things pretty quiet. but does that strain the ability of our military to be accountable to us about what they're doing? >> i think our military is quite transparent, as you know. as you mentioned earlier in the show, we have a challenge in this particular operation because of the great difficulty and having reporters on the ground safely. i saw richard engle, a good
friend, reporting from turkey, hopefully we'll get back to embedding reporters. that really is ground truth. i think the way the u.s. approaches is really transparent. other nations are going to do it differently. that's something you need to appreciate about coalitions. not every nation is going to operate in the same way in the same regard. >> one of the joint chiefs operational spokesmen today talked about operational commanders today talked about this being a year's long effort. i think that sent a shiver down a lot of people's spine. do you think it's appropriate to be talking about an exit strategy at the outset of this campaign? they're telling us to be patient, that this will take a long time. our own congress hasn't weighed in on this or authorized use of force in a direct way. they're saying it's going to be a long one, but should we be talking about what we're working toward? >> rachel, i think it is too
early for that. we really are at the beginning of this. what i like about this strategy is that it's not just the bombing in syria. we're really going to put the islamic state under a three-front war. we're going to rearm the pashmerga in the north and stiffen and invigorate the iraqi security forces in the south. and bomb and do command and control in the west. once we put that kind of three-front pressure on the islamic state, we may find this goes quicker than we think. but it's too soon to say that as yet. >> dean of the fletcher school of law at tufts now. it's nice to have you here. thank you. >> thanks, rachel. >> stay with us. more ahead. r defects. so i offered to help. at ge capital, we bring expertise from across ge. so i call in our access ge engineers, and together with columbia, we work backwards. from the cabinet factory, to the place they peel the logs.
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willing to interrupt their two months off for something. even if they are not at all willing to interrupt their two months off to vote on the new war that the u.s. started waging in the middle east. i wonder sometimes if they know that we can see them at times like this. we can see you. this congress will go down in history for a lot of reasons. none of them are good. nineteen years ago, we thought, "wow, how is there no way to tell the good from the bad?" so we gave people the power of the review. and now angie's list is revolutionizing local service again. you can easily buy and schedule services from top-rated providers. conveniently stay up to date on progress. and effortlessly turn your photos into finished projects with our snapfix app. visit angieslist.com today. ♪
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whenwork with equity experts who work with regional experts that's when expertise happens. mfs. because there is no expertise without collaboration. so last night on the show after the air strikes started we raised five questions about the u.s. going to war in syria. question one, will this work? what will be the effect of what we're doing? question two, who is involved and how will the world react to what we're doing?
question three, how will syria react to this and other nations using military force inside their borders. question four, has isis integrated itself into civilian areas so any attacks on them will also harm syrian civilians. and question five, are they legal? are the air strikes legal. five question, the strategy, the wisdom, the ethics and the politics of this new war. and in the last 25 hours since we raised those questions, since the air strikes started, this is what we can add in terms of what we know about the answers to those five questions, at least as of the first day of this war. let's take the last one first in terms of is this legal. we now know the white house says this war on isis is legal under the authorization that was passed by congress right after 9/11. even though they authorization was to use force specifically to fight the people responsible for
9/11 and that was 13 years ago and this group did not exist then. so that was the initial claim leading up to yesterday. but in the last 24 hours, new justification. in addition to that, the pentagon came up with a new one. they're now seeing the strike against isis in syria are legal because iraq asked for them. countries are not usually allowed to ask for things to happen in other countries. i mean, you can ask but if canada asked mexico to bomb us? anyway. it's another legal argument we got from the administration for the first time today after the strikes already started. that's new from them. in terms of the effect on civilians, question four, the administration today said they have no reports of civilian injuries associated with the air strikes.
that said, there are not western reporters on the ground check things out. activists in syria say between 8 and 24 civilians were killed by the air strikes last night. in terms of the reaction from syria, question number three, there is no sign as of yet that syria is activating their air defense system or its air force against u.s. planes. the pentagon said today that syria left its air defense system basically on passive radar for the strikes last night. we'll see if that changes over time. in terms of question two, how other countries are responding, british prime minister david cam son said he supports the u.s. strikes in syria but he's not certain yet where the british parliament would support him in that opinion. allied france made one air strike inside of iraq, but not in syria. in fact, france's government has ruled out the possibility of also running bombing raids inside syria as well. they want to keep their efforts confined to iraq. russia, syria's great ally condemned the u.s. strikes, as long as they proceed without consent from the syrian government. and the iranian president who's become more of a wild card than
iran used to be, he said that the u.s.-led air strikes are flat-out illegal, they would need either the invitation of the syrian government or the u.n. to say yes. neither of which have happened. so the global reaction thus far is mixed. finally, the big question of what's going to happen here, change this part of the world? well, stay tuned. the administration said today they have every reason to believe the air strikes were successful, they hit their targets, today the pentagon said they launched two more air strikes in syria overnight and a third one in iraq. this air war is under way and ongoing. but will this work? who knows. i don't know and you don't either. my magic 8-ball is at the cleaners. the important thing to know is neither us, here, nor the u.s. government nor anybody else in the region knows how this works out in the end. keep watching. that does it for us tomorrow. now it's time for "the last word" with lawrence o'donnell. >> we certainly don't know how long it's going to last. >> thank you, rachel. bob costas will join me tonight for an exclusive interview about the crisis in the nfl.